Some girlfriends and I have been taking turns making macaroni and cheese (after we got tired of soup). I had been wanting to do something chicken, bacon, and ranch flavored for a while, and found a one-pot stovetop recipe that looked easy. It used velveeta and powdered ranch mix, which I wouldn't normally use, but I knew it would be easy to make early in the morning when I was tired.
It turned out so good! It was creamy and salty, with bacon and ground chicken in every bite. This is really good as a once-in-awhile indulgence. (But now I have 3/4 of a log of velveeta to deal with, hmm... More on that later.) Next time, I would definitely try making my own ranch mix instead of using the packet; but I would keep the velveeta - it provides a totally different texture from a bechamel/mornay sauce. Enjoy!
Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Mac and Cheese
adapted from What's Cooking Love
1 lb ground chicken
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2/3 cup bacon, cooked and diced
2 cups of elbow macaroni (or other short pasta), uncooked
1 packet ranch dressing mix (dry)
1/2 lb (8 oz) of Velveeta Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4-1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Brown the ground chicken in a large skillet or wide pot on medium heat, adding 1/2 tsp of garlic powder to season the meat. Once the meat is browned, drain the fat.
Then add the water, bacon, ranch dressing seasoning, and remaining garlic powder to the chicken, mixing well.
Bring to a boil, then stir in the macaroni and cover. Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
Stir in the Velveeta and cook until melted, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thin, add shredded cheddar cheese until it is thick enough to your liking.
For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Oh! You Cook! (Which is such a cute name.) In addition to writing the blog, Dena has also authored The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook - how cool is that?! As you can imagine, her recipes are kosher, but that doesn't mean that you have to be in order to enjoy them!
I was, of course, very interested in the Challah Bread Pudding, and a couple of other desserts including Blueberry Pudding Pie, Raspberry Custard Pie, and Almond Rice Pudding. But I really wanted to make something savory. I loved that she had several recipes that used pomegranate molasses, and ingredient that I love and am always looking for uses for. And the Picadillo Meat Loaf and Honey Mustard Chicken looked very weeknight friendly.
But in the end, I chose the Orecchiette with Veal, Capers, and White Wine. It looked so good (and easy) that I couldn't pass it up.
Start by sauteing onion and garlic, browning the veal, then adding the white wine and allowing it to cook out.
It's Secret Recipe Club time again! This month I was assigned Sarah's Kitchen - a name that I love, obviously. Sarahs of the world unite! Sarah is from England, but now lives in Texas - which is kind of funny because I'm from Texas and once lived in Ireland (which I realize is not the same as England, but is geographically/culturally similar). Spooky.
Anyway, I was clearly craving a casserole while looking through Sarah's blog because every recipe I was drawn to was one. Like this Stovetop Beef and Penne Casserole, this Eight Layer Casserole, these two Mexican Casseroles, this Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, and this Turkey Tetrazzini. They all looked tempting, but as soon as a saw a recipe for Pastitsio, I was done. This Greek lasagna like casserole is one of my all time favorite dishes. So let's make it!
Start by sauteing onions and garlic, then browning beef. I actually chose to use half beef and half lamb.
When the beef is browned, stir in tomato paste.
I was looking for a dish to bring over to my friend, Melissa, who just had a baby. This recipe immediately popped out at me - one dish, easy to transport, easy to reheat, and lot's of veggies (plus cheese and pasta, of course). There's a reason people are always bringing casseroles! I also liked that it uses a lot of frozen veggies, making it budget friendly and easy to make year-round.
I also may have used it as an excuse to buy this thing, which I have been wanting for a long time - so cute!
So, we start out with ALL THE VEGETABLES. Ever. Just kidding... kind of. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil, then add frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. When those have thawed, add in shredded carrot and zucchini.
I saw this and thought to myself, "not enough vegetables," so I added some frozen peas to the boiling pasta for the last 30 seconds. You can use whatever shape of pasta you like, I thought bowties would be fun and cute. I used Barilla protein plus pasta, because it boasts 17g of protein per 3.5oz serving and veggie dishes can always use some extra protein. I also rinsed the pasta (and peas) in cold water to stop the cooking and get rid of the extra starch (something I only do for pasta salads, and pasta that is going to be cooked again in the oven).
If you've been wondering where I've been for the past 2 weeks, the answer is - vacation! I will be writing about that for sure, but before I get to it I want to talk about this pasta that I made before we left. My friend Melissa (you know her by now) was also going out of town, a little before we were, and gifted me several of her home-grown bell peppers and tomatoes. I wanted to use them to do a take on sausage and peppers in pasta form because I'm, well, me.
So I browned some sliced sausage, and then threw in an onion, the peppers, and the tomatoes to saute. Then I tossed in cooked whole wheat penne along with pasta water, a splash of cream, and some Parmesan to make a sauce. And finally, I topped it with some fresh basil and parsley. Fast, easy, and hearty. Thanks Melissa!
I have been really busy and traveling a lot lately, I haven't really been cooking much. When I do, it is usually a quick throw together of some type of pasta, vegetable, and protein. This particular version consisted of tri-color cheese tortellini, heirloom tomato, yellow zucchini, spinach, turkey meatballs, goat cheese, and fresh herbs.
While the water for the pasta was boiling, I sliced the zucchini and chopped the tomato and an onion. I sauteed the onion and zucchini in some goat butter, then added the spinach and let it wilt. I added the cooked tortellini on top with a little pit of pasta water (which helped with the wilting), then threw in the fresh tomatoes and took it off the heat.
Lastly I added some frozen turkey meatballs that I had heated in the microwave (I know, I know - I was in a hurry okay?), some crumbled goat cheese, and some fresh basil and parsley. This was super easy and came together in less than 30 minutes. Plus there was enough other stuff going on to distract my husband from the vegetables - score!
Last month, I signed up to bring pasta salad to a potluck. In typical me fashion, I decided that I had to make it myself. After cruising the internet for a bit, I came across a recipe with smoked gouda, which was all I needed to be sold. Roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts? Total bonus.
I choose to use gemelli for my pasta because it is my favorite and it is really structurally sound - it holds up to anything. While that was boiling, I diced up my roasted peppers and artichoke hearts (I was lucky to find grilled ones at the store). I had a couple of tomatoes hanging around, so I chopped those up and threw them in too. After I rinsed the pasta in cold water (normally a big no-no, but good for pasta salads), I tossed it with the veggies and the cubed gouda.
Then came the dressing, where I inexplicably decided to take the opposite route and go quick and easy. I used mayonnaise and bottled Italian dressing and it came out just right - light and flavorful. You are of course welcome to make your own dressing from scratch. Top with fresh herbs and go! This is hearty and fresh and super yummy - it was very popular at the potluck, thank goodness!
I know it's way too hot out to be making this sort of thing, but I don't care. It is sooooooo good. This is a French onion soup inspired macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions, boatloads of cheese, and a buttery breadcrumb topping with thyme. Yum, yum, yum. Oh yeah, and a little bit of white wine (shoutout to Broken Dreams - my fave white of the moment). I made this with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies and it was one of those magical recipes that is so much fun to make and doesn't stress you out during the process (though that may have been the wine taking effect...).
Step one is to get the onions going, of course. Can't have French onion soup without onions! Pop those bad boys into a heavy bottomed pan with olive oil, butter, and thyme. Is there any better flavor combo than onions and thyme? I like to start them at medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low once they are translucent.
After 15 minutes, they should look kind of like this. Add a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of salt and keep cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Remember to take out the thyme stems when they are done.
I'm really trying to be better at waking up early enough to get to the Farmer's Market. I love the scene with all the booths and crowds of people, all the adorable puppies and babies. The Mosaic Market even has live music and food trucks. But I am not very good at cooking by the seat of my pants, so after I pick out some yummy looking veg, it usually ends up getting tossed into a pasta. Even more so when the market offers amazing artisan pasta from Pappardelle's Pasta. C'est la vie!
My first batch of veggies (asparagus, tomato, and leek) went into a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce with the garlic chive artisan pappardelle. I cooked the leek down in butter and olive oil, then added some white wine, lemon juice, and pasta water along with chopped tomatoes. When that had cooked to a good sauce consistency, I tossed in blanched asparagus and the cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente). I finished it off with lemon zest, Parmesan, and black pepper and served it with salmon.
I still had tomatoes and a random eggplant that I picked up for no reason, so I decided to do a riff on this pasta. I really should have used a whole wheat pasta, but I just love gemelli and I can't find it in whole wheat anywhere. It's the perfect short shape because it has good structural integrity (meaning it cooks evenly and doesn't get mushy edges).
Anyway, I roasted the eggplant while I caramelized an onion (I really wish I had a red onion, but I didn't). After adding garlic, a splash of sherry, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, I added some chopped tomato and a pat of butter (trying to get the essence of the Marcella Hazan sauce without cooking it for 45 minutes). Then I added in the eggplant, cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente), and a splash of pasta water and let it come together. Then I topped it with fresh basil and black pepper and served it with some hanger steak from the market (one of the few places where I can find it - there's only 1 per cow and they sell fast).
Happy Easter! It has been a long, crazy winter. We had just a hint of spring before a cold snap hit again, but it looks like we are on our way back and hopefully it will last this time!
I took advantage of the nice weather to plant my container herb garden. I've got chives, French thyme, English thyme, lemon thyme, and oregano thyme in one pot. The big one has common sage, purple sage, rosemary, spearmint, tarragon, Greek and Italian oregano, and dill. And the last one has sweet basil, thai basil, amethyst basil, lemon basil, and parsley.
I also cleared out and cleaned up my tiny backyard, and while I was removing dead leaves, I accidentally uncovered a nest full of baby rabbits! I was totally shocked and didn't know what to do. I yelled for my husband to bring me a box to put them in while I hit the internet for advice. Leave them alone and put them back was the unanimous decision. Mama rabbits only visit the babies 2 times a day to feed very quickly (1-2 minutes) so that predators won't know where they are. So baby rabbits have not been abandoned and they don't need to be rescued (unless injured by lawnmower, dog, cat, etc...). In fact, trying to take care of them yourself will likely kill them!